Like so many others, all of us at Read Ahead have been devastated, outraged, saddened, and a host of other emotions by the stories of racism and violence in the news. The stories about George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Christian Cooper, and Breonna Taylor have made national headlines over the past several weeks, but unfortunately the institutional racism that sparked each incident has been with us much longer.
In New York City, over 50% of the student population is Black or Hispanic. As an organization that works with over 1,000 children in the New York City public school system, we want to take this opportunity to say unequivocally: Black Lives Matter.
And until everyone in our community is free to go running, bird watching, relax in their own homes, or do anything else without fear of experiencing racism, violence, or death, it is incumbent on all of us to work hard to understand systemic racism, and to speak and act against it.
Read Ahead was founded nearly 30 years ago on the premise that reading with young children is a powerful source for good, and that caring professionals be a resource for their community. It is in that spirit, and with our core value of growth in mind, that we share this list of anti-racist books and other resources.
— Kristen Baldwin, Executive Director
Anti-racism reading and resources for young children
Books to get started (with publisher’s descriptions)
- A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramée – From debut author Lisa Moore Ramée comes this funny and big-hearted debut middle grade novel about friendship, family, and standing up for what’s right.
- Daddy, There’s a Noise Outside by Kenneth Braswell – This engaging story begins when two children are awakened by noises in the middle of the night outside the window of their inner-city neighborhood. Both their Dad and Mom spend the next morning explaining to them what was taking place in their community.
- Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano and Marietta Collins – Something Happened in Our Town follows two families — one White, one Black — as they discuss a police shooting of a Black man in their community. The story aims to answer children’s questions about such traumatic events, and to help children identify and counter racial injustice in their own lives.
- Hands Up! by Breanna J. McDaniel – This triumphant picture book recasts a charged phrase as part of a black girl’s everyday life—hands up for a hug, hands up in class, hands up for a high five—before culminating in a moment of resistance at a protest march.
- While we have limited this list to contemporary books with Black Lives Matter and related themes, it is also important to build a bookshelf full of books where diverse protagonists are portrayed across all kinds of story lines. For some great diverse book roundups, check out #4 on this list of 75 things white people can do for racial justice.
- Books that support kids to think critically about racial inequity – A list compiled by Embrace Race, a nonprofit dedicated to raising a generation of children who are “thoughtful, informed, and brave about race.”
- Books about Racism and Social Justice – A list compiled by Common Sense Media, organized by age range from pre-k to teens.
- Social Justice Booklist – A list compiled by the National Network of State Teachers of the Year. Topics include racism and civil rights, and books are organized by grade level.
- Talking About Race – A brand new resource from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. Tools and guidance for educators, caregivers, and individuals committed to equity.
- Say Their Names – A toolkit by Chicago Public Schools to help foster productive conversations about race and civil disobedience. Includes summaries, links to resources, and concise, actionable steps toward dismantling racism and understanding the Black Lives Matter movement. Includes a section specifically about talking to elementary age children.
- 100 Race-Conscious Things to Say to Your Child to Advance Racial Justice – A round-up of quotes from Raising Race Conscious Children’s blogs and workshops designed to support adults who are trying to talk to young children about race. Each quote links back to the original article and further resources.
- How White Parents Can Use Media to Raise Anti-Racist Kids – a brief but comprehensive article by Common Sense Media, full of practical suggestions on how to use books, movies, tv shows, and other media to talk to kids about race.
- Raising Race-Conscious Children – When popular “mommy blogger” Joanna Goddard realized that her “colorblind” approach to raising her own children may do more harm than good, she reached out to Lori Taliaferro Riddick and Sachi Feris from Raising Race-Conscious Children to help her understand how to begin to talk to her children about race.
- Social Justice Resources from the Children’s Community School – A roundup of resources to help parents who don’t know where to start when talking about race with young children, including their “They’re not too young to talk about race” infographic, and other resources from around the internet.
- How to talk to your children about protests and racism from CNN – Lengthy article full of practical advice and external links, organized by age group.
Anti-racism reading and resources for adults
Books to get started (with publisher’s descriptions)
- So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo – A New York Times bestseller that guides readers of all races through subjects ranging from intersectionality and affirmative action to “model minorities” in an attempt to make the seemingly impossible possible: honest conversations about race and racism, and how they infect almost every aspect of American life.
- I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown – In a time when nearly all institutions (schools, churches, universities, businesses) claim to value “diversity” in their mission statements, I’M STILL HERE is a powerful account of how and why our actions so often fall short of our words. Austin writes in breathtaking detail about her journey to self-worth and the pitfalls that kill our attempts at racial justice, in stories that bear witness to the complexity of America’s social fabric—from Black Cleveland neighborhoods to private schools in the middle-class suburbs, from prison walls to the boardrooms at majority-white organizations.
- The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander – Another New York Times bestseller, a stunning account of the rebirth of a caste-like system in the United States, one that has resulted in millions of African Americans locked behind bars and then relegated to a permanent second-class status—denied the very rights supposedly won in the Civil Rights Movement.
- Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald – Two leading psychologists describe their groundbreaking work exploring the hidden biases that we all carry from a lifetime of experiences with groups – age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, social class, sexuality, disability status, or nationality.
- The artist Jane Mount of Ideal Bookshelf crowdsourced a list of anti-racism books for one of her signature art pieces – you can see the full list and purchase books here
- The Anti-Racist Reading List: 38 books for those open to changing themselves, and their world by Ibram X. Kendi (The Atlantic, February 2019) – An introductory syllabus of books about antiblack racism compiled by the Director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University
- Showing up for Racial Justice’s political education, toolkits, and other resources – Readings and action steps to combat racism, white supremacy, white privilege, and related topics.
- Anti-racism resources – Resources compiled in May 2020 to help white people and parents combat racism.
- Anti-racism resource guide – A robust guide compiled by Tasha K. Ryals, with a long list of books for children and adults, organized by topic.